PC Cheryl Knight

Hunt saboteurs hit back at Countryside Alliance ‘meltdown’

The Countryside Alliance (CA) is up in arms over Wiltshire Police’s decision not to employ fox hunters on its Rural Crime Team. It has launched a campaign to try to reverse the “unjust and divisive decision immediately”.

Wiltshire Police announced that it would not employ hunters, past or present, onto its Rural Crime Team (RCT) after public uproar at its employment of PC Cheryl Knight. Knight has links to multiple hunts, including the Avon Vale, the Beaufort, as well as a beagling hunt – thought to be the Wiltshire and Infantry Beagles. On top of this, she has shown her disdain for the lives of the working class – referred to as chavs – and foxes in a Facebook post.

Of course, one of the RCT’s main remits is to prosecute illegal hunting, so it should have come as little surprise to Wiltshire Police that people would complain about a fox hunter’s appointment. And, of course, it should also come as little surprise that the pro-hunting CA would be outraged that those responsible for investigating hunts aren’t actually hunters themselves.

Blatant lies by the CA

The Salisbury Journal quoted the CA’s Polly Portwin, herself a former hunt master who began campaigning to save her beloved bloodsport when it became illegal to hunt real foxes. She refers to the enforcement of the Hunting Act in 2005 as “dark days“. Portwin said of Wiltshire Police’s decision:

“There can be no justification for rejecting job applications based on an individual’s involvement in a lawful activity.”

What both Portwin and the Salisbury Journal failed to point out is that the activity of fox hunting isn’t lawful by any means. As Protect The Wild consistently reports, hunt saboteurs catch hunts chasing foxes week in and week out, contrary to the law. They also failed to mention that PC Knight’s notoriously violent Avon Vale Hunt is currently being investigated for illegal activity after a video went viral, showing its terriermen digging out two foxes. The British Hound Sports Association – hunt’s governing body – was forced to permanently expel the Avon Vale following the leaked footage.

The CA argued that the police force is blatantly discriminating against hunters. But in a complaint, written to the Salisbury Journal, Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs pointed out that discrimination is a legal term covered by the Equality Act, and covers discrimination by gender, disability, ethnicity and religious belief. The sabs said:

“whilst [the CA] are naturally upset that foxhunting officers will no longer be involved in the team that involves investigating fox hunting, this cannot be described as discrimination in any meaningful sense.”

Biased reporting

The Salisbury Journal went on to report that:

“In under 24 hours, 2,400 people had already sent emails to [Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner] Mr Wilkinson, outlining their horror at the decision [not to employ those affiliated with hunting], the Alliance said.”

But the news website didn’t mention that more than 41,000 members of the public had signed a previous petition, urging Wiltshire Police to remove PC Cheryl Knight from her position in the RCT.

In its headline, the Salisbury Journal also referred to the CA as a charity. Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs wrote in its complaint:

“We would like to make you aware of a factual error in the headline; despite their attempts the Countryside Alliance, whom you refer to, have been repeatedly denied charity status by the Charity Commission… Calling them a charity suggests that they are charitable, benefiting to society, and are audited to ensure they comply with charitable status, and gives them a credibility they simply do not have.”

The sabs also complained to the publication about its one-sided reporting. Wiltshire Police has made the decision not to employ anyone who is affiliated with either hunts or anti-hunting groups, and yet the Salisbury Journal only printed the opinions of the CA. Wiltshire Sabs told the publication:

“you did not seek, for the sake of balance, any statement or opinion from any anti-hunt group, which we would be pleased to give you, should you have asked.”

Wasting time

The CA is pinning its hopes on Wiltshire PCC Philip Wilkinson to help change Wiltshire Police’s recruitment policy. But Wilkinson’s office previously washed its hands of any responsibility for police recruitment decisions, telling Protect The Wild:

“Wiltshire Police is responsible for operational policing decisions, such as workforce planning and placement.”

So, if Wilkinson’s office is to be believed, the CA is wasting its time as it encourages the pro-hunting masses to employ the PCC.

As the 2022/23 fox hunting season has come to a close, it’s clear that modern-day hunting is struggling to stay afloat. We are seeing more and more hunts being investigated for murdering foxes, while other hunts are either folding or amalgamating. The CA’s latest outburst comes from a place of desperation, as it tries in vain to save the dying bloodsport.


  • Featured image: PC Cheryl Knight whose appointment to Wiltshire RCT triggered the protests


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